Zimbabwe’s justice minister has denounced a South African court ruling that would allow prosecutions related to alleged torture under President Robert Mugabe.
“The ruling brings the South African justice system into disrepute. No specifics have been identified, because they should have laid a blow by blow account of what crime has been committed,” Patrick Chinamasa told state media on Wednesday.
The Tuesday ruling could affect Zimbabwean refugees, many of whom have fled to neighbouring South Africa, and government officials, who also sometimes come on business or personal trips.
In a landmark judgement, high court judge Hans Fabricius ruled that authorities in South Africa can probe and prosecute not only high-level crimes committed in neighbouring Zimbabwe, but anywhere else in the world.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said prosecutors will study the ruling and decide what legal steps to take.
“There may be an appeal,” said James Gathii, co-chairman of the Africa interest group of the American Society of International Law. “But I think that more likely than not the [prosecutors] and police will have to take a closer look at the case.”
Tsvangirai’s party pleased
The case centres on Zimbabwean officials accused of state-sanctioned torture against scores of activists following a raid on the headquarters of the Movement for Democratic Change in 2007.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai is now the prime minister in a power-sharing government with Mugabe, and his party hailed the decision.
“Torture is a barbaric instrument of dealing with issues of politics,” spokesman Nelson Chamisa told the AFP news agency. “For that reason it remains our wish that all people of Zimbabwe with injured hearts and troubled minds are brought to restorative and rehabilitative, as opposed to retributive, justice.” Read more…